ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rio+20

What Is at Stake

There are major issues at stake in the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development to be held on 20-22 June. Yet governments of developing countries have not given adequate importance to the run-up to the conference. As has happened in the climate change negotiations, the outcome draft now under negotiation shows a concerted move to rewrite the terms of global environmental governance. There is an attempt to push through the decidedly narrow and environmentally defi ned “green economy” and there are moves to dilute the importance of development for poverty eradication. Backed by an arsenal of research on environmental economics, the North is out to set a policy agenda that the South is fi nding it diffi cult to catch up with.

In contrast to the enormous interest in climate negotiations, the forthcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held at Rio de Janeiro has thus far evoked much less comment in India and indeed globally. This is unfortunate, since Rio+20 (as it is commonly known) marks an important milestone in the evolution of global environmental governance with serious implications particularly for developing countries. A large number of heads of state and government are to attend the summit (20-22 June), including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and all his colleagues from the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group. While at this point it appears that President Barack Obama of the United States and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom may not be present at Rio, this may well change, raising the stakes at the 20th anniversary of the original Earth Summit.

For India, in particular, Rio+20 is likely to develop into another test, much along the lines of what transpired at Durban in the climate negotiations. The divisions that have emerged in the so-called “informal informal” consultations on the draft of the main outcome document of Rio+20 (the “zero draft” as it is referred to) have many similarities with those seen in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and in particular at the 2011 Conference of Parties (COP 17) meeting at Durban. While formally the two sets of negotiations are independent, it is obvious that the developments at Rio would have a major impact on the progress of the climate negotiations.

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